So here we are, nearly 2 weeks into our quarantine or self isolation. If you're reading this hopefully you are still feeling health, and maybe starting to get a little restless (I for sure am). One of the reasons I keep getting so restless is because I live in a small apartment and there isn't much room to move around. So I keep finding myself sitting on the couch.
Don't get me wrong, the couch is comfortable, but I am really a get up and go kind of person and all of this time just hanging out is getting me nervous.
I have a history of low back pain, but I know that it always feels better when I can get a lot of exercise and stay strong. I also know that my back flares up when I get lazy and sedentary. I don't think I am so special that I am the only one who goes through the same thing. In fact, as a physical therapist I hear the same sentence over and over and over and over day in and day out while I work with patients.
So If you find yourself in a position where you're working from home at a make shift desk, spending hours and hours on the couch glaring at your computer, or you finished "tiger king" and can't find another series on netflix to start it might be time to start working on yourself.
Here is a list of # things that you can do to get ahead of your back pain:
1. Go for a walk
Getting outside and moving your legs will help to pump blood through the body. It will help you to release some endorphins so that you feel better mentally and physically. Getting a change of scenery and breathing some fresh air is a great way to decrease stress and clear your mind of all of the craziness that is going on right now. Almost everyone has a smart watch that tracks their steps at this point. Use this time as a way to get that number up, Set a goal and keep yourself accountable.
Back pain has a really large psychological aspect that people rarely think about. Generally speaking, when people are under larger amounts of stress the amplitude of their back pain will be larger as well.
Meditation is excellent for a couple of reasons. First, it helps you get in tune with your breathing. This can help you get out of that "fight or flight" state that your body is constantly fighting when you are stressed. Second, With mindful breathing you will be forced to breathe deeper. This means that your ribs and upper back will move more than normal. This is super important if you have back pain because a stiff upper back means that your lower back will have to do double duty and move for the upper back and the lower back. Finally, It will help you clear your mind and prevent you from focusing on all of the bad things that may be happening in the world.
I am not saying that stretching is the best thing for you to do if your back is hurting. In fact, I often recommend that people with back pain do not stretch their hamstrings (If you want to chat about that more in depth please send me an E-mail and I'd be happy to explain why!).
However, when your hips stiffen up and your upper back stiffens up you low back steps in to pull triple duty. If you can get a good stretch in your hips and a good stretch in your upper back you can help to lower the burden on your lower back.
Check out these two exercises you can do in your living room without any equipment:
4. Sit on the floor
Sometimes the best thing you can do is change positions. If you stay on the couch for too long your body may just need a position change. I like to recommend sitting on the floor for a while because it can be tough to get comfortable. Now hear me out for a minute, this is a GOOD thing. This means that you won't stay in any one position for too long so your body won't stiffen up as quickly. You may even end up laying on your stomach for a while, which would be great to get you out of the "flexed" position you get into on the couch.
5. Call a friend
This one might just be me, but I can't sit down while I'm on the phone. I find myself pacing all through the house. It's also good to get some social interaction and check in on your people. Talking to your friends can help you feel at ease and bring your stress levels down (depending on the friend). It might also distract you for a short period of time which can keep your mind from going down the back pain rabbit hole!
If you're already dealing with some back pain and you're not sure what to do about it, you do not have to wait until it is safe to go outside before getting evaluated or treated. The safest option right now is virtual physical therapy, and it can help you get a jump start on those outdoor activities once summer starts. If this is something you want to learn more about give me a call or shoot me an E-mail and I'd love to answer all your questions!
Phone number: (973) 542-4068